NAVI Mumbai residents worried about the illegal dumping of debris in water bodies and reserved plots have alleged the land mafias responsible for the nuisance are being treated with kid gloves instead of an iron fist by the City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd (CIDCO).
Saying one such gang was let off with a meagre fine earlier this month, the concerned residents have questioned the lethargic attitude that they claim CIDCO is showing towards tackling the menace.
Residents of Tulsi Vihar building in Sector 28 of Nerul said they have complained to CIDCO about illegal dumping of debris that was happening for over six months on a reserved plot and a water body in front of their building, but are yet to see the debris cleared.
The residents claimed there was a big water body near their building, but inaction on the part of CIDCO led to the destruction of the water body as well as of a large tract of mangroves.
Now, the pile of debris stands as high as a two-floor building.
The building residents said they were concerned about the environmental damage and the health hazards of living near the illegal dumping site.
“Just six months ago, there used to be a big water body and a lot of mangrove growth in front of our building,” Tulsi Vihar resident K P Mani said. “Around six months ago, we came across the dumping of debris on the water body, but we did not see any CIDCO official visiting the area. After four months of this, a huge structure of debris had formed and we saw levelling of land was being done with the help of a Poclain (vehicle). When we rigorously followed up the matter with CIDCO, the illegal dumping was stopped by CIDCO. But what is to be done with the debris now? CIDCO should not wash its hands of the issue and should book the land mafia responsible for the dumping.”
Another resident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said CIDCO had taken action only against truck drivers for the dumping while letting the land mafia behind it go unpunished.
“We have lost a beautiful lake because of the debris and the surrounding area has been polluted,” the resident said. “All this is going to affect us badly. What stops CIDCO from taking strict action against the land mafias? CIDCO should not let such land mafias go scot-free.”
After the residents’ complaint, the managing director of CIDCO had ordered the Chief Controller of Unauthorised Constructions (CCUC) to take strict action against the illegal dumping. Subsequently, CIDCO raided the area and claimed that it had taken action against the people behind the dumping.
“Acting on the complaint, we have taken action against two truck drivers and have filed a complaint against them at the Nerul police station,” CCUC of CIDCO Anil Patil said.
Officials of the Nerul police station said CIDCO had just filed a non-cognizable case under Sections 115 and 117 of the Bombay Police Act, and the arrested truck drivers were released on payment of a small fine.
Now the Nerul police have also closed the case file.
Residents said the CCUC did not make any effort to get information about the land mafia behind the dumping of debris.
As for the debris, CIDCO says it is not its job to remove it.
“We are just supposed to stop illegal dumping activities in our jurisdiction and the police are supposed to conduct an inquiry into the matter,” Patil said. “According to my information, the whole area where the debris is dumped did not have any water and is made up of only reserved plots of CIDCO. So we are not going to do anything about the debris.”
CIDCO managing director Tanaji Satre expressed helplessness about the inability of the CCUC department to take action against the land mafias and arrest the illegal activities.
“Our men keep patrolling the city to check illegal dumping, so the illegal dumping near Tulsi Vihar building should not have gone unchecked,” Satre said. “However, we do not have enough manpower to check illegal dumping in the city, and the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation is also supposed to keep a watch on illegal encroachment as this area comes under its jurisdiction.”